WASHINGTON -- With the news breaking earlier in the day Tuesday that Nationals All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos was lost for the season with a torn ACL, it left Washington looking for ways to replace his production in the middle of the order.
Anthony Rendon provided that offense Tuesday night, when he launched a three-run homer off right-hander Randall Delgado to help guide the Nationals to a 4-2 victory over the D-backs at Nationals Park.
His homer helped back a strong effort from right-hander Max Scherzer, who struck out 10 in six innings and broke his own team single-season strikeout record. The Nationals, coupled with the Dodgers' loss to the Padres on Tuesday, increased their lead for home field in the NLDS to two games.
"That's what we're playing for," Scherzer said. "I would love to have Game 5 here at Nationals Park facing the Dodgers. In a short series, home-field advantage matters. We need to go out and get hot and get moving in the right direction and take care of home-field advantage because it's ours to lose."
The D-backs jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Scherzer, thanks to a leadoff homer from Jean Segura on the first pitch of the game and a run-scoring double from Welington Castillo in the third. Then Scherzer settled down, eventually recording seven consecutive strikeouts, to pick up his 19th victory as he makes a push for the National League Cy Young award.
D-backs right-hander Matt Koch, making his first career start after he was acquired from the Mets last season in exchange for Addison Reed, began his Major League career with five no-hit innings against the Nationals. He ran into trouble to start the sixth, however, allowing a leadoff single to Jose Lobaton and issuing a walk to pinch-hitter, Wilmer Difo, before Koch was removed from the game for Delgado.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Curtain call for Rendon: The Nationals' offense had been quiet until the rally in the sixth, and with two outs it looked as if they might still leave the inning trailing before Rendon's big home run. It was his 500th career hit and gave him 22 RBIs this month, a career high for a single month. And the homer ignited the crowd of 24,297 fans at Nationals Park who sent Rendon out for a curtain call.
"It was pretty cool," Rendon said. "It's definitely humbling, too. It doesn't happen too often, so enjoy it."
Koch didn't crumble: Koch did not look like someone making his first big league start. He didn't seem rattled by the moment. The D-backs have been impressed with his moxie and he will get one more start -- Sunday in the season finale -- to solidify his candidacy for the 2017 rotation heading into Spring Training.
"The curveball wasn't really there today," Koch said. "I threw it a few times, but mostly fastball/slider. It was in and out and trying to keep them off balance." More >
Nats strikeout record: Scherzer recorded his Major League-leading 13th double-digit strikeout game of the season, extending his MLB-leading strikeout total to 277. That number also sets a new Nationals single-season strikeout record, surpassing his own mark set last season. Washington has won each of the last nine games started by Scherzer, and he is 7-0 with a 3.07 ERA in those starts. More >
Jean is a hitting machine: Segura keeps creeping towards the 200-hit mark for the season. He went 1-for-4 with the leadoff homer. It was his ninth career leadoff homer and his eighth this season.
"Got the home run on the first pitch," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "Jumped on it, good swing."
WHAT'S NEXT Diamondbacks:Shelby Miller will make his final start of the year Wednesday against the Nationals at 4:05 p.m. MST. Miller is coming off one of his best outings of the year when he tossed six shutout innings against the Orioles in Baltimore.
Nationals: In what will likely be his final regular-season start, left-hander Gio Gonzalez (11-10, 4.51 ERA) takes the mound for the Nationals on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET, still fighting to establish himself as the team's No. 3 starter headed into the postseason despite an up and down year.